Il y a déjà quelques temps, je m’étais décidé à consacrer mon mois de novembre à relire Pynchon. Des contraintes principalement externes ne m’ont pas permis de donner à cette entreprise le temps qu’elle mériterait, j’ai donc remis les opérations à plus tard non sans tout de même me replonger dans « V. » - merci à Antonio de m’avoir donné une bonne raison. Après quelques dizaines de pages, je suis submergé par le plaisir authentique ressenti par la grâce de cette écriture. Et je suis tombé sur le passage qui suit, sorte de digression gratuite à l’occasion d’une soirée passée par Paola Maijstral dans un club de jazz. Certains disent que McClintic Sphere est en fait Ornette Coleman. C’est faux chronologiquement – on est en 1956, Coleman débarque sur la scène new-yorkaise en 1959- mais les spécialistes disent que tout indique que c’est bien de lui qu’il s’agit. Peut-être que, vers 1961, le Pynch’ voulut donner par cette scène un hommage à la fois à Parker et à Coleman, son héritier, indiquant ainsi dans son récit « the shape of jazz to come » ? Et puis cette histoire de tags "Bird Lives" un peu partout, n'est-ce pas un précurseur de WASTE? Quoiqu’il en soit, voilà qui nous rappelle, si besoin en était, que, quand bien même les références rock affleurent dans les livres suivants, Pynchon, c’est avant tout le jazz qu’il nous chante, dans sa prose comme dans les péripéties de ses personnages.
« Horn and alto together favored sixths and minor fourths and when this happened it was like a knife fight or tug of war: the sound was consonant but as if cross-purposes were in the air. The solos of McClintic Sphere were something else. There were people around, mostly those who wrote for Downbeat magazine or the liners of LP records, who seemed to feel he played disregarding chord changes completely. They talked a great deal about soul and the anti-intellectual and the rising rhythms of African nationalism. It was a new conception, they said, and some of them said: Bird Lives.
Since the soul of Charlie Parker had dissolved away into a hostile March wind nearly a year before, a great deal of nonsense had been spoken and written about him. Much more was to come, some is still being written today. He was the greatest alto on the postwar scene and when he left it some curious negative will –a reluctance and a refusal to believe in the final, cold fact- possessed the lunatic fringe to scrawl in every subway station, on sidewalks, in pissoirs, the denial: Bird Lives. So that among the people in the V-Note that night were, at a conservative estimate, a dreamy 10 per cent who had not got the word, and saw in McClintic Sphere a kind of reincarnation. »
"The solos of McClintic Sphere were something else."
Something Else est le titre du premier album d'Ornette Coleman (1958). Peu probable que Pynchon ait écrit cela au hasard. Cela dit, Sphere était le deuxième prénom de Thelonious Monk, d'où l'on peut supposer que Pynchon a créé son personnage en condensant et réorganisant les traits de plusieurs musiciens réels (procédé on ne peut plus classique). J'ignore dans ma grande inculture ce qu'est WASTE, mais l'anecdote des graffitis "Bird Lives" ayant fleuri un peu partout après la mort de Parker est authentique.
WASTE veut dire "We await silent Trystero empire", dont le symbole, dessiné dans les endroits les plus improbables, précède Oedipa partout où elle va dans "Vente à la criée du lot 49". En ce qui concerne Coleman, Monk, parker, et Pynchon, il ya ces détails sur le site Modern Word:
Pynchon introduces him [McClintic] in a remarkable section (p. 47 in my Bantam edition) with a whole series of links, allusions, echoes, and satirical reflections of the late 1950's and Ornette Coleman's legendary "Five Spot" appearance in Greenwich Village. The section starts with several of the New York cast arriving at a Greenwich Village nightclub called "The V-Note" (p. 48):
1. V for the title of the novel and an elusive woman, object of a novel-long search by one of the characters.
2. V as in the Roman Numeral for Five = Five Spot. This famous club featured Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane (1957) in a legendary engagement; it was the nightclub where Ornette Coleman first opened in November 1959 (and where he played a number of times over the following years)
3. V-Note. The Note = Half Note. Another Greenwich Village club, and another venue at which Coleman played during the period
McClintic Sphere is playing onstage when the group enters. "Sphere" is Thelonious Monk's middle name (Monk was a frequent performer in the village at the time and, as noted, is closely associated with the Five Spot). McClintic may be an echo of Coleman's unusual first name. (The only jazz musician with a somewhat similar first name would be Kenny Dorham, whose given first name was McKinley. He performed regularly in New York during that period and may be associated with groups that played the Five Spot).
James Stanley, of Dunedin, New Zealand, adds: "Ornette Coleman, along with Don Cherry, spent time at the Lenox school of Jazz in 1959 (his first year in NYC), and of course Sphere spends time in Lenox during the course of the novel as well. More supporting evidence for the association between two of the best artists in their respective fields."
p. 48 "He blew a hand-carved ivory alto saxophone" --obvious reference to the plastic alto saxophone which Ornette used in the late fifties, evidently because it was cheaper than a metal sax and because it gave him a more flexible sound. "...with a 4 1/2 reed" Also a reference to the 4 1/2 strength reed which Ornette used in Los Angeles (described by Don Cherry in a famous passage in an interview with Joe Goldberg).
The next paragraphs include some nice descriptions of the reactions in the audience, from those who simply left, to those from other groups who were unwilling to reject it, to those few who liked it. This directly echoes the reports in Downbeat about Coleman's first appearances at the Five Spot in 1959:
"The group on the stand had no piano: it was bass, drums, McClintic and a boy he had found in the Ozarks who blew a natural horn in F". This is an echo of the Ornette Coleman Quartet, and the natural horn may be a reference to the unusual pocket trumpet which Don Cherry favored at the time. (Cherry was, of course, from Los Angeles).
"The bass was small and evil-looking and his eyes were yellow with pinpoints in the center". I have no idea which of Ornette's bassists this refers to -- possibly David Izenzon? The bassist at the time was Charles Haden, by no means small and evil looking.
The next paragraph is a biting description of some of those in the audience, "mostly those who wrote for Downbeat magazine or the liners of LP records...". (Reader Clay Thurmond also points out that Sphere's playing is described here as "something else"--which is the title of Coleman's first LP on Contemporary Records recorded in 1958).
On the next page (p. 49): "Since the soul of Charlie Parker had dissolved away into a hostile March wind nearly a year before...". This is too early for Ornette, but only by three years. Parker died in March 1955 which would make this early 1956. In 1956 Ornette was still an unemployed, unknown musician in Los Angeles. He did not arrive in New York city until the fall of 1959, and the controversy, the club names and the rest of the allusions belong to that specific period. On the same page: "'He plays all the notes Bird missed,' somebody whispered". Another allusion to the impact of Ornette, who received a lot of attention as the next alto saxophonist after Parker to move the music forward...
Putain de merde, on dirait des spécialistes de l'atbash en train d'user les pages de la Bible à la recherche de sens cachés.
C'est très exactement ça.
Mieux vaut lire la Vivle, alors.
Tout ça est très intéressant, merci. Pour continuer à filer le parallèle, voir la chronique de Brian Morton ici.
De la chronique de Brian Morton –
“The myth of Pynchon’s reclusiveness is exactly that. He’s a man who has managed to avoid the more egregious aspects of the book trade, before, after and during the fact. No jacket photos, no literary festival appearances, no in-depth interviews: but behind it all a fairly ordinary writing life, albeit in an extraordinary register. The guy ain’t J. D. Salinger or B. Traven.”
C’est vrai. Mais commencer une carrière litteraire aujourd’hui est impossible sans tout l’appareil de publicité.
Très intéressant, merci.
Merci pour cet article!